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Vegetarian Diet

Diet Origins

The vegetarian diet was said to have been developed during ancient India. The concept of non-violence known as ahimsa in Sanskrit originated from Hindu philosophy and plays a central part today within Hinduism. Throughout the centuries, vegetarianism has been promoted through both Hindu and Buddhist faiths. India has the largest population of vegetarians, where nearly 70% of the population follows some type of vegetarian diet. Today, there are many different types of vegetarians – lacto vegetarians, ova vegetarians, lacto-ova vegetarians, pesco-vegetarians and vegans.

Diet Philosophy

The vegetarian diet is regarded for lowering high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, preventing certain types of cancers and beneficial for losing weight. A large intake of fruits and vegetables is heavily encouraged. As with all diets, portion sizes need to be controlled and the right types of foods need to be chosen according to the caloric components of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. There are three critical components for success:

• Making good lifestyle choices – moderate alcohol consumption, abstinence from smoking

• Eating more fruits and vegetables and animal protein

• Engaging in physical activity at least 30 minutes per day throughout the day

Diet Claims

The claims of the vegetarian diet are related towards promoting weight management, weight loss, reducing blood pressure, and reducing blood cholesterol. Blood glucose should also be controlled and monitored, with the increase of complex carbohydrates, a common aspect of vegetarian diets.

Diet Structure

The vegetarian diet requires that calories should be counted and energy balance is required. According to the Vegetarian Food Pyramid, the serving sizes depend on the type of vegetarian diet the client wants to follow. To summarize, there should be at least 5-6 servings of grains, 6-8 servings of vegetables, 3-4 servings of fruits, 3 servings of protein (legumes and soy), 2 servings of dairy, 1 serving of nuts and seeds. The MyPlate diagram, as formulated by the USDA, can be a useful tool for following portion sizes.

Food Restrictions

Dietary restrictions for vegetarianism include abstaining from all types of meat, fish, or chicken. Depending on the client’s preferences, fish, eggs or dairy products can be completely avoided. However, a true vegetarian would likely limit his or her intake of animal protein foods. The diet also recommends limiting sodium, added sugars, saturated fat, trans-saturated fat, and cholesterol rich foods. It is also recommended to drink more water and fruit juice, rather than sodas or sugary drinks.


For those who are vegans, it is necessary to take Vitamin B12 supplements, as this vitamin is found only in animal products. Otherwise, supplements are not necessary unless by physician’s recommendation.

Diet Testing

The vegetarian diet has been upheld by Medline and Mayo Clinic organizations. Researchers at Loma Linda University, a Seventh-Day Adventist institution, have also indicated that vegetarian diets are instrumental in the reduction of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic disorders and stroke.

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